Today we had lunch with Mary's sister Judy and her husband Russ. Lots of great talking, laughing and joking. As we left Mary turned tome and said "You are a different man." "You laugh, tell stories,
express yourself. You participate more now than I have seen before." "You've changed." That I think is good news. But why?
A little Cook family history here. George Edmund Cook, my dad was raised by a severe father. He and his brothers were all grim faced, down trodden men of little humor. I cannot ever remember seeing my father without a dress shirt and tie on, but not always a coat. He was a male secretary to the President of the Erie Rail Road for years prior to going to work in the Erie Tug Boat office in New Jersey. There he was a clerk and accountant.
He and I did not get along for reasons I won't go into now. As I grew older I grew further and further away from both my parents, eventually entering the US Army on my 17th birthday. If I knew anything at all, I knew I would never be like my father. I smoked, drank, raised as much hell as possible (before going into service,) and it got worse/better depending on who you asked after I got away from home.
Over the years I really thought I had left my father long behind. All the HOOIN' and RAHIN' covered up a lot. Marriages, children, broken dreams, failed jobs all took their toll and one day I looked in the mirror and there stood George. For a while I kicked the drinking into high gear. No matter what I did or where I went, there I/he was.
My own brand of stoicism saw me through a lot of years. Right up until it didn't serve me anymore. I gave up drinking.I gave up smoking and I looked for a way to re-invent myself. I found that through AA. CODA,and self study. Attitudinal Healing and Insight Seminars helped too. I got my own brand of religion. I went so far as to profess my desire to enter the priest hood. And I studied religion fervently. I spent four years just preparing for seminary through a program entitled Education for Ministry. I was ready to go. Sadly (then) the Episcopal Bishop of Florida didn't see me as priestly material and rejected my application. Can you see where I was becoming ever more and beyond my father?
I have played emotions close to the cuff. Protected myself from hurt. I spent 10 years studying and practicing the art of Coaching. But I still had not gotten over myself.
Then a day or so ago I read this little book by a guy who knew he was slipping away into ALZ. He said he was relieved to have the diagnosis. Relieved? Then he went on to explain; he didn't have to prove himself anymore. He had done his bit, was satisfied with how he led his life and he now was set free from pretense.
Having thought some about Mary's comment I realize I have subconsciously come to know I don't have to hold back anymore. How COOL is that? I do feel emotionally lighter. In fact, more alive than since I don't know when.
It is up to me now to see that Mary and I live life to the fullest for as long as we have got. I will not give in to this disease. I know I can't beat it, but I will fight it so as not to be beaten down.
In Love and Laughter, jdc